Gorehouse Greats #9
So what would you do if your dad one day just up and went “Hey, I’ve got a brother I’ve never told you about and he lives in the ass end of British nowheresville! Let us all go visit him and we will have a jolly good time!”
You would probably look at him sideways and maybe suggest that he ease up on the homemade wine, right? Not 20 year old Catherine York (B-movie horror regular Candace Gendenning). Not only does she take off for the week of her birthday, she leaves behind her boyfriend, John (Michael Craze, who was also in Terror). Yeah, this is going to end real well!
Everything actually goes fine until they arrive just outside their uncle’s expensive looking mansion and both dad and mom burn to death when their car mysteriously hits a tree! We are then properly introduced to the group of lovely fun people who we’ll get to spend most of the film’s running time with. There’s uncle Alexander York (played by Michael Gough who’s been in damn near everything), cousin Stephen York (who we saw earlier in the film raping and murdering a random American girl), and the unrelated Frances who functions a some sort of secretary to Alexander and soon to be former lover of Stephen.
If you’ve seen a British Satan worship film from the 1970’s you pretty much know what’s going to happen, that is almost everybody is going to die a horrible painful death for your amusement. Thus, Satan’s Slave offers absolutely no surprises at all. So what does it offer?
In my write-up of Terror, I noted that director Norman J. Warren started off doing nudie movies until he found success with this film and moved in a horror-centric direction. As a result, Satan’s Slave is kind of situated halfway between two genres: sexploitation and grisly horror. Quite honestly, it’s a kind of uncomfortable mix. If you’ve seen stuff like David F. Friedman’s The Defilers (1965) or any seedy exploitation from the 60’s and 70’s, you know the kind of uncomfortable I’m talking about. For example, Satan’s Slave includes a male on female sexual assault (the woman is killed after), a priest who orders a woman stripped nude and whipped (she’s then burned to death), and several scenes where random nude women are sacrificed to Satan. It’s that grimy mix of nudity, sex, and violence that really made this film a success when it was released and not any skill on the part of its director. Because frankly without all of this rather nasty, and mostly female directed, depravity the movie would be pretty freaking hard to sit through. Mostly because it’s. so. sloooooow. The story inches along like a snail stuck on flypaper until the next bit of skin, “shocking” plot twist, or cruel bout of violence. This is also something I noted with Warren’s Terror: Blood and boobs are pretty much all that makes these films worth watching. That kind of thing can be fun if you’re in the right mood, and aren’t too bothered by women literally being treated like meat, but it can also be very boring. Satan’s Slave ends up being about 30% icky fun and about 70% “dear lord is this thing over yet?”
So while Warren still has a cult following with freaks like me that love this kind of thing, after watching two of his films, I’m just not that big of a fan. I need a bit more to keep me from falling asleep, you know? I want to go to the carnival and ride the rides, man! I want to eat cotton candy until I get sick and ogle the bearded lady. Staring at the dude biting the head off the chicken all night isn’t really my style.
On the other hand, that fingernail file to the eyeball was pretty bitchin’. Sigh.
- We get another kind of neat opening credits thing with this one. Every single drawing on display would make a really killer t-shirt.
- I think there’s like 4 pairs of boobs that get shown in the first 10 minutes of screen time. Not even kidding.
- Sadly, my small collection of David F. Friedman movies are stuck back in The States. Who wants to mail my copy of She Freak back to me?
- It’s weird that, thanks to this DVD set, that you can find this movie for about 5 bucks at Wal-Mart. Is this the kind of thing your average Joe Lunchpail puts on his TV set when there’s not football to watch? Cause that would be pretty cool if it were true.
Gorehouse Greats #8
Even though I haven’t seen any of his films besides this one, director Norman J. Warren is actually kind of a big deal in the British b-movie world. This is from Wikipedia:
“Along with Peter Walker, Warren’s films are sometimes dubbed ‘New Wave’ British horror, on the basis that they upped the ante in terms of explicitness, were set in modern-day 1970s Britain and centered around young protagonists of ages between 20 and 30, distinguishing them from the period piece horrors of Hammer Films that had appeared before.”
He started off directing sex films and branched out into horror with Satan’s Slave in 1976, a movie that is also on this set, and now has something of a cult following. That’s kind of cool, really. I can dig it. I wish my life was half as interesting…
We start off with a kind of a neat trippy opening title sequence which, much like the film’s maddeningly vague title, tells you absolutely nothing about what the movie is going to be about. Then we cut to a woman running through a field while a bunch of villagers give chase. A couple of them set up a rather large bear trap which she of course steps into. It turns out that she’s a witch and they’re going to burn her at the stake! Where’s Barbara Steele when you need her? Actually this feels a lot like a Barbara Steele witch movie but with Andy Milligan style cheapness and incompetence. Just when things are starting to get interesting and the evil witch is getting burned at the stake, an end title card comes up! Turns out that this was just a movie within a movie and the cast and crew sit around and cackle at how silly it is. Notably, the poor production values in this ‘fake’ movie are about on par with what’s in the actual film.
It also turns out that the director of the film based it around real life events that stretch way back into his family history. Turns out his family is cursed, or something. It’s kind of vague. Not only is the plot needlessly thin, it seems like nobody involved in the making of this thing seemed to care about it at all! See, this ancient witch is supposed to be trying to destroy this dude’s family but it’s random people that keep getting murdered. At one point this cop just kind of wanders into the film and gets offed!
So the plot doesn’t matter a pill and a half but what about the characters? Nope. We don’t get enough information about them to really give a shit either. They’re just meat for the mill. Some of them, like the crazy ex-film star that lives at the boarding house don’t even contribute to anything! So what does this movie have to fill it’s run time and validate it’s existence? Well, one thing really: Graphic death scenes. Since there’s nothing to really link anything together in any way that would define any normal film, Terror is really just one nasty blood soaked scene after another. I think it’s ironic that a set called “Gorehouse Greats” would take 8 movies to really give us some gore, but it’s on par with the exploitation experience.
But let’s get to those deaths shall we? My favorite is probably the creepy dude at the strip club that gets his neck cut with piano wire, tumbles over a railing, and gets impaled on a gate! And then he’s found all ground up in a garbage truck the next morning! Truly there’s no kill like overkill.
There’s also the dude that gets his head cut off by a falling window pane and the camera just kind of lingers on the scene like it’s a fine oil painting or something.
Even the stabbings are surprisingly graphic. It’s easy to see why a film like this would be envelope pushing in a country, and at a time, where Hammer Horror was a big deal and the censors were constantly looking over everybody’s shoulders. There’s even full frontal nudity in the strip club scene! Courtesy of a short haired androgynous looking woman who plays with a whip! Yowza!
To cut right to the point, Terror is pure unadulterated trash. It’s a dumb poorly made movie that steals from just about everywhere it can, primarily from Dario Argento’s Suspiria, but it delivers exactly what you’d want: blood and nudity. If you’re looking for anything else, I’d stay far far away.
Oh yeah, and Peter “Chewbacca” Mayhew turns up in a rare non-Star Wars bit part as a mechanic. Terror came out the same year as The Star Wars Holiday Special! Talk about a two-fer of junk!
- No, this isn’t The Terror, that Jack Nicholson/ Boris Karloff movie that Roger Corman made while the sets from another one of his movies was being torn down. Did you know that was one of the first “classic” b-movies I ever saw? Well now you do.
- There’s a scene where a girl is attacked by a flying car and I swear it looks like Harry Potter has a grudge against her. It’s pretty fucking funny.
- There’s another part where a dude gets attacked by a pile of discarded film, which I can honestly say I have never seen before. I’ve seen people get attacked by bed sheets, a stupid looking lamp, and a goddamn exploding coke machine and now I’ve got another one to add to the list. Sigh.
- According to IMDB the film stock that was used in that scene was actually damaged prints of Saturday Night Fever! Oh the humanity!
- If you look quick backstage at the strip club, somebody has written “Sham 69” on a mirror with lipstick. The scabby punk inside me did a backflip into a pile of used heroin needles when I spied that, let me tell you…